Subscription postcards: Impact theory, bird-emblazoned mountain scenery, and corrugated cephaloboxes

Postcard collage: Diagram of meteorite impacting moon to create a crater. Beneath it is a sprinting pig. Behind it are salt flats. The text says "IMPACT THEORY"

Message on postcard:
Sharon — Greetings from Cape Lookout State Park! I remember reading John Muir in my early twenties, reading his description of unbroken old-growth forests that used to carpet the Pacific Northwest … these days there’s not much of it left. Here at Cape Lookout all the trees seem to be second growth. But every once in a while you’ll see a massive old stump that’s about the size of a whale head. I’m camped next to one right now. It’s dwarfing my van.

Vanagon and tree stump.

My van parked in front of a gigantic, old-growth tree stump at sunset. The tree stump looks like a smokestack.


Postcard collage: Birds and reeds in front of a mountain landscape. The bottom of the postcard says "UTAH".

Message on postcard:
Carmel — Today I went for a hike along the Netarts Spit, a thin strip of land bordered by Netarts Bay on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. The spit has an ocean beach and a long and tiny hill dotted with dead and dying trees. It also has a grass-covered mud flat that isn’t so much water-saturated dirt as it is earth-laden water. It’s pretty. I like it.


Postcard collage: A boy with a box on his head stands in front of an old-style race car on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Message on postcard:
Bridget — About a week ago I visited Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast. In the afternoon, before the sun went down, I walked a couple miles up the beach. Debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami is beginning to wash ashore. The best piece of debris I found was a big blue bucket. It reminded me of a bucket-related Meat Puppets song that I later listened to and enjoyed. This is the first and only positive outcome from the tsunami.

Below: The above-mentioned Meat Puppets song.

Tsunami debris sign at the Cape Lookout campground recycling area.

Tsunami debris sign at Cape Lookout campground.

Art by mail: Big Bird, cartographer extraordinaire

Message on postcard:
Hi Amanda! You said you like maps and birds, so you’re in luck! This is the story of the biggest map in the world, and its creation by the world’s biggest bird — Doctor E. Biggums Birdsong the Third, known to his friends as “Large Bird”, and known to my ace team of lawyers as “an entity similar to but legally distinct from Big Bird”. Even though he prefers the name “Biggums” or “Large Bird”, I just shorten the lawyer-assigned name and call him “Big Bird”.

Our story begins on the rim of Crater Lake. The dogs and I had hiked up to a viewpoint named in honor of the 19th-century explorer Frederick Raggle. Frederick Raggle Rock, or Fraggle Rock as it’s known to the locals, is one of the finest places to experience the beauty of Crater Lake. And its expansive view also makes it the most logical place to begin any cartographic survey of the Crater Lake area. It was there that I was astonished to find Big Bird hard at work with his Playskool Big Boy Laser Cartography and Geospatial Information Systems Play Kit.

“Big Bird!” I said. “What it is!”

“Oh, hi, Mike,” said Big Bird. “I’m just working on my greatest project yet.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

Big Bird looked really excited. “I’m so glad you asked! It’s an educational life-size map of Crater Lake! Every letter and number in the world will be there, climbing the mountains and swimming in the lake. They’ll be tens of meters tall, and cloned from the DNA of ancient numbers trapped in amber!”

Big Bird’s eyes narrowed. “The Children’s Cartographic Workshop will be building the map at Area 51 in Nevada.”

“Holy feathers, Big Bird,” I said, growing uneasy. The dogs’ hackles rose.

“I call it Alphanumeric Park … Life will find a way.”

Clouds blocked the sun. Lightning struck the far rim of the lake. But in the end, everything was fine.